Most college applications require that prospective students submit scores from a standardized college entrance exam. The two most common exams are the SAT and the ACT. The SAT was originally the Scholastic Aptitude Test, then the Scholastic Achievement Test, and, more recently, the SAT Reasoning Test. The ACT was originally American College Testing. Now the names are no longer acronyms---just SAT and ACT, neither short for anything! Most colleges will accept scores from either test, though some are partial to one or the other. You need to check the websites of schools which interest you to see if they have preferences as well as to see the average range of scores for incoming freshmen for each school.
We recommend that our students take the PSAT, administered by our staff during a school day in October each year, in 10th and 11th grades. This is for practice and informative purposes only; colleges will not receive these scores. Students should take their first SAT by the end of January of the junior year. This allows time for assessment of scores and strategizing when to take the test again. Most students should take the SAT at least twice in an effort to get their best scores. Sitting for the tests in the junior year is critical for students who wish to attend a competitive college, as those applications open early, and serious candidates will take advantage of that. You can find a wealth of information about the tests, practices, and many other relevant topics at www.collegeboard.org.
The ACT is a good alternative or companion test to taking the SAT. It has differences from the SAT which enable some students to achieve better scores. The ACT tests a broader range of knowledge and skills, and it is scored differently than the SAT. For a detailed look at the ACT, visit www.act.org.
Other tests are used as well. The THEA (Texas Higher Education Assessment) and the TSI (Texas Success Initiative) tests are used by Texas 2-year colleges as well as some 4-year colleges; check individual school websites for imformation.